Today, 07/07/07, the winners of a popular vote to become the new world wonders will be revealed. Naturally, we’ve also offered our personal picks for the Seven Wonders of the World – Tech Edition. Let the debates begin.
Google has rapidly become a permanent cornerstone in the technology world, so it’s an obvious first stop on our tour of the Seven Tech Wonders. The building now known as the Googleplex was originally occupied by Silicon Graphics, Inc. and purchased by Google in June of 2006.
Creativity was clearly a priority after Google took over – no expense was spared in designing the luxurious environment. The Google headquarters boasts two swimming pools, gourmet restaurants, game rooms, free laundry and salons complete with a masseuse – definitely not your average American office building. And leave it to Google to over-accommodate their creative people: the amenities are all available 24/7, because the best ideas don’t always come between 9 and 5.
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)
Industrial Light and Magic’s datacenter is a wonder of the world in any category. Datacenters can be big, they can be expensive, they can be complicated, and then they can be ILM. The ILM facility spans 13,500 square feet with more than 600 miles of network cables; a 3000 processor server farm (expands to 5000 after hours from desktop computers); and about 170 terabytes of storage – all bound together by a 340-node, 10 GB backbone. (For those who may not understand just how big and how fast that actually is: the entire internet doesn’t even run at that speed.)
The need for all this data comes from the digital effects of such films as Transformers, Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean. Since creating the first fully computer-generated sequence for a movie in Star Trek II, ILM has been on the bleeding edge of digital effects, and the profits from these movies are vital contributors to datacenter upgrades.
Here’s a thought to wrap your brain around: if you’re downloading movies or music on a T1 line (likely the speed of the connection at your office) 24 hours a day, it would take about 25 years to download ILM’s 150+ terabytes. (Thanks Michael!!)
Next stop on the Tech Wonder tour: the International Space Station. If you look out of the left side of the bus, and maybe slightly upward, you will see the ISS: the stuff Sci-Fi movies are made of. The model for the station had been in the concept stages since the early 80′s and was finally put into orbit in 1998.
The ISS recently made the news with what could have become disastrous: computer failure resulted in losing thruster and environmental controls. After less than one day of being inoperative, the computers were brought back online and full control was restored. A power surge from the newly installed solar arrays is believed to have been the major contributor to the failure.
The future is uncertain for the ISS, however there are plans for future missions as far out as 2010. The ISS has been considered a pit stop for missions to the moon and even Mars. And according to NASA, July 9, 2007 will bring an announcement of a new mission to Mars.
Apple’s Retail Opus
As our tour bus makes its descent back to planet Earth, you’ll notice a bright white light glowing from a glass cube in Manhattan, New York. It’s the first Apple store to stay open 24/7, and is easily one of the most remarkable sites the retail tech world – especially when compared to the measly garage where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built the first Apple computer. The grand opening of the underground concept store was hyped by Apple enthusiasts worldwide, and drew thousands of gawkers on opening day. The store is easily the most visual representation of Apple’s modern, clean design experience. Take a virtual tour of the Manhattan store to experience it for yourself.
(Side note: The garage where the first HP computer was built was just recognized as a national landmark. While HP’s inventions changed the business world, the idea of creating a PC for the average user is possibly a more groundbreaking feat, and the impact more profound. How many of us remember playing Oregon Trail or Montezuma’s Revenge on our elementary school’s Apple II? Personally, I loved Captain Goodnight!)
Fremont Street Experience (sound!)
Next stop: Vegas. The Viva Vision canopy is one of the flashiest examples of technology you’ll see. Twelve million LED’s light up 1400 feet of canopy with 220 speakers producing 550,000 watts of sound providing the music for each show. The previous setup for this light show was controlled by 32 separate computers located in various kiosks along the street. Since the upgrade in 2004, now only 10 computers control the show from a central control room.
Far away from the bright lights of Vegas, orbiting the earth at five miles per second, this marvel of astronomy explores the deepest corners of space. From Hubblesite.org:
The Hubble Space Telescope’s launch in 1990 sped humanity to one of its greatest advances in that journey… Its position above the atmosphere, which distorts and blocks the light that reaches our planet, gives it a view of the universe that typically far surpasses that of ground-based telescopes.
Hubble is one of NASA’s most successful and long-lasting science missions. It has beamed hundreds of thousands of images back to Earth, shedding light on many of the great mysteries of astronomy. Its gaze has helped determine the age of the universe, the identity of quasars, and the existence of dark energy.
This final stop is probably the least well-known tech wonder. The monument was dedicated in 1990 and sits on the grounds of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It consists of four encrypted messages, three of which have been solved, initially by hand and then by a Pentium II computer.
The final message requires clues other than the cipher on the monument. The messages probably won’t make sense until the final code is solved, when it is, the mystery to life will be revealed! Then someone will just come up with another complicated, seemingly-uncrackable code.
Which wonders did we miss? What’s your favorite wonder?
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